The "New Normal" - Life After Quarantine
By Melissa Lipari
As each state enters their respective re-opening phase, further relaxes quarantine regulations, and encourages a sense of normalcy - I can’t help but wonder what life will look like post-lockdown. We hear the phrase “new normal” being thrown around quite often. In the “new normal” social media says that we will never take going out for cocktails with our girlfriends for granted or we will never sleep in on a Sunday morning again instead of hitting the gym. While this might be true for some, we must accept the idea that COVID-19 will never fully go away.
Think of it like the flu. There might be a vaccine in the future - and there is a chance you won’t come down with it - but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t dangerous to you or others. Some may ask: does this mean we just throw away our masks when it’s deemed “safe” to go outside? The answer is absolutely not. When flu season is over, we don’t stop washing our hands or throw out all of our cold medicines. We continue to take precautions even when the flu isn’t at its most communicable state and we go about living our lives in the safest way possible.
COVID-19 is a bit different from the common flu though. For starters, it's highly contagious, more contagious than the common cold and the seasonal flu combined. It also has killed hundreds of thousands of people globally. We have never experienced a virus outbreak like this in the United States. At least, not for hundreds of years before modern medicine and the digital age, which begs the question: what will life after quarantine actually be like?
Some southern states are experiencing life after quarantine already, long before the death tolls fail to rise. A majority of the southern states in the U.S. are in the “red-zone” - meaning that they have the most active cases and should be taking precautions very seriously. Despite this, North-easterners are flocking to Florida for an early summer vacation and bars in South Carolina are so packed you can barely move. This is the exact opposite of what we would expect to see in states that are in grave danger of increasing their positive cases while their medical supplies are simultaneously dwindling.
The more tests that are being done, the more cases that are surfacing. CNN.com reports “The shifts in demographics have been recorded in parts of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and other states -- many of which were some of the first to reopen.” The article continues with; “and while some officials have pointed to more widespread testing being done, others say the new cases stem from Americans failing to social distance. In Mississippi, where one health officer called adherence to social distancing over the past weeks "overwhelmingly disappointing," officials attributed clusters of new cases to fraternity rush parties.” These test statistics are coming from states that are behaving like green states when they are nowhere near this level yet. I promise, going to a fraternity party is not worth risking your life.
A lot of these reported cases are stemming from young people, which was a demographic that was once deemed “untouchable” by virus skeptics. It is no surprise that young people are struggling the most with social distancing, as we are used to being around our friends constantly, especially if we live on a college campus. However, it puts the concept of the “new normal” into an interesting perspective, especially for millennials and Gen Z. The “new normal” will probably mean no more social-hour at the bar, not unless you have your own section away from everyone else that consists of only the people you have been social distancing with. It also means that the travel bug that we all want to scratch is going to have to wait. No vacation is worth coming back home and potentially exposing loved ones to a life-threatening virus.
Aside from the social things we’ll probably have to say goodbye to or at least modify, our day to day routines are certainly going to have to adapt to the “new normal” as well. Malls are probably going to take a long time to open in some states, which means that online shopping is going to completely dominate brick and mortar shopping. This was already a foreseeable fate, as the internet has replaced many in-person luxuries, but I will certainly miss being able to walk into my favorite store with the option to try on clothes before purchasing.
If malls do fully open, as stand-alone stores are currently the only non-essential retailers that are available widely, we will surely have to wear our masks. This goes for movie theaters and nail/hair salons, and will continue to be implemented in grocery stores and super-centers too. We will certainly be adding a mask to our essentials of a phone, wallet, and keys before leaving the house for the foreseeable future. Gyms are also going to be closed most likely, or will have strict social-distancing rules that will prevent patrons from getting too close to one another, with cleaning shared equipment becoming the main concern to help flatten the curve.
Medical care will absolutely change forever. We will probably still be terrified to step into a doctor’s office, even months after our states re-open, giving people who do not have to regularly see their primary care physician all the more reason to skip their annual checkups. Hospitals will be depleted of their staff and resources from the painful recovery of the first wave of this virus. USA Today.com writes “Doctors restructured office waiting rooms and now greet patients daring enough to keep regular visits wearing masks. Hospitals cut elective surgeries, limited visitors, and scrambled to provide protection for workers. Tests and annual checkups have been postponed or converted to virtual visits.” Telemedicne will now become the forefront of medicine, which is great for those who don’t need to see their doctors in person. But, what about those who need to visit a gynecologist, for those who are pregnant, for those who have cancer? The list of people who need face-to-face medicine, that will now struggle with getting these resources, will surely go up.
The job market is also slim to none during this time. As someone who will soon be looking for a full-time job with their degree, I am absolutely terrified to be entering the job market in a time that is mirroring the Great Depression.The stimulus checks may have been enough to sustain some people during this time, but I doubt the government will continue to keep floating us money, as this pandemic rages on but more states fully re-open. For those of us who have been wanting to land the job of our dreams, it seems like this dream will have to be put on pause. Job interviews will no-longer be conducted in person most likely and companies will have to be ready to adopt more online-friendly work conditions - which is something that not all businesses can feasibly take on.
Finally, something that I have personally seen change already due to COVID-19, is the re-working of college campuses. I am enrolled at LIM College, a small, private, fashion/business institution in New York City. Though I am graduating in the fall and have completed all of my core classes aside from my senior internship, my school has already announced that they will no longer be holding in-person classes that meet twice a week. Classes will either be held as a hybrid, meaning they meet once a week in person and once online, or completely online. If you do choose to attend a class in person, you will have to wear a mask and sit far from others.
This is a strategy that is being implemented across college campuses aside from my own. Alluding to the fact that Zoom calls will become the new lecture halls and online exams will replace the Scantron test. This might seem great for many, as we can sleep in and complete courses from the comforts of our own beds - however, think about those who struggle with a learning disability or need accommodations. They will no longer be able to receive the in person help with courses that they had total accessibility to before.
Also, what will be the fate of dorm rooms or on-campus housing? Commuting to school is a luxury that I have, but many other students do not have the ability to do the same. There are also international students that rely on campus housing in order to have somewhere to live. They have left the comforts of their own homes in other countries for the pursuit of higher education and are now being forced to take courses online - something they could probably do for much cheaper at a different institution - perhaps one that is even in their own country.
There are certainly a lot of uncertainties when it comes to the future of life after quarantine. There are rumors of a second wave, as it has been seen in other countries already. Countries who have been stricken from the virus before us, like in South Korea. I believe the second wave is going to be more than just a rumor, it will be inevitable. We have to begin to prepare for life to change forever. We have gone through something that we have never planned for, something that we have never experienced except for the Spanish Influenza in 1918. Nevertheless, we have to be ready to change our mindsets. Life might not ever be the same after quarantine, but we have to be strong for ourselves and for others to accept the things that we cannot change and celebrate the luxuries that we still will have.
*Disclaimer: While life after quarantine can not be fully predicted, these are the speculations and conclusions that I have drawn from current information, published from various sources. Please check the reliable resources linked below for further guidance based upon your individual situation or where you currently reside. Wear your mask, wash your hands, social distance when possible, and please be safe.